What Is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking refers to making large quantities of food in batches for the purpose of having meals for later.
Batch cooking is a strategy encouraged in a variety of dietary protocols. The difference with batch cooking for a low histamine diet is that you will always freeze what you don’t immediately consume. Freezing is the only way to halt the formation of histamine.
Having meals prepared in advance allows you to grab something from the freezer. Whether you need a quick breakfast before you head out the door each morning, a lunch you can grab to throw into your bag, or are pulling out a meal to heat for dinner after a long day, prepared foods make meals quick and simple.
It’s a Time Saver
Batch cooking is a great way to spend less time in the kitchen cooking. A few thoughtful hours on a weekend or on a couple of weeknights saves you hours of time compared to cooking for each meal. If the idea of pulling together meals each day feels overwhelming, you will love how batch cooking simplifies meal preparation.
If you would rather spend time walking the dog, socializing with friends, or sitting down to enjoy a quiet moment with a book, keep reading to find out our top tips to successful batch cooking.
Before you can get started on batch cooking you need a plan. The two most important questions to start with are:
What am I going to make?
What ingredients do I need to get?
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself to get your planning started:
What are some complete meals I can make that include protein, vegetables and healthy fats? Soups and stews are great choices.
What is a meat I can prepare that I can use in a variety of meals? Whole chicken or roasts (pork, lamb in the early stages, and beef and bison in Stage 3) are good choices. We’ve got some great meal ideas for you below.
What cooking method does each recipe require? You can often cook two recipes in the oven at once, but can’t do that with a pressure cooker. To save you the most amount of time you may want to have something going in the pressure cooker or stovetop and in the oven at the same time.
What sauce or dressing can I make to create flavour and versatility in meals?
What do I want to bake? Will it be something savoury to go with meals or something sweet?
Do I need to double or triple recipes so my batches are large enough to meet my needs?
Once you have made decisions about what recipes you want to make, make sure to stock up on all the ingredients you need in the quantities you need.
Keep track of what you need on a shopping list. Head out to your favourite store or market or place an online grocery order for delivery.
Multitask for Multi-Meals
Take advantage of your different cooking appliances to maximize the amount of food you can prepare. What is available to you? A stove? An oven? A pressure cooker? An air fryer (one without Teflon or plastic parts)?
Why not utilize all of them at once? Let's talk about great pieces of cookware that will be a must have for successful batch cooking.
A pressure cooker reduces cooking time, which reduces histamine formation. You can also cook meat directly from frozen to minimize histamine formation as much as possible. Cooking a whole frozen chicken or pork roast is a great batch cooking strategy. (We have a how-to on page 144 of our book.) If you don’t yet have a pressure cooker, we suggest an 8 Quart (about 7.6 litres) or larger size for batch cooking.
For your stovetop, a large stockpot and a large pan or skillet will help you get your batches cooked. This is a great place to make soups or stews, especially if your pressure cooker is in use. We also love the stovetop for thawing and warming your prepared meals.
For the oven a large baking sheet with a rim, along with a Dutch Oven or other type of casserole dish are great options. Sheet pan meals with meat and veggies roasted in a healthy fat are great to get into the freezer.
Best Batch Ideas
The best batch cook ideas are either complete meals that just need heating or foods that are versatile and can be used as components in many different meals. Here are some of our favourites.
Soups & stews - these are the most efficient complete meals you can make. They are also one of the easiest frozen meals to thaw, making them a convenient favourite. Make sure to freeze in individual sized portions so as to make it easy and swift to defrost when it's meal time!
Sheet pan meals - a combination of meat and vegetables roasted in the oven is another great option for a complete meal.
A whole chicken or pork or lamb roast cooked in a pressure cooker and then shredded - this is a great meal component to have on hand. Freeze into serving sizes. There are endless possibilities for your batch of shredded meat:
Build-a-Bowl - in addition to shredded meat, have bowls of chopped pea shoots, diced cucumber, grated carrots, sliced cabbage, green onions and your favourite sauce so that everyone at the table can create their own bowl. Need a base? Cook up halved spaghetti squash in the Instant Pot for 7 minutes, release pressure and scrape out using a fork.
Lettuce wraps - place shredded meat on a large lettuce leaf along with diced cucumber, red onion or your favourite low histamine veggies. Roll it up and enjoy. Great for lunches!
Stir fry - sauté onion, bok choy, celery, cabbage and broccoli with some garlic and ginger, then add the shredded meat.
Salad - load up your plate with your favourite lettuces, some chopped apple or blueberries, and shredded meat. Pour on your favourite dressing. (We share an idea below.)
4. Chimichurri or pesto, like in the image above. Freeze into ice cube trays for single serving sizes or small containers for larger servings.
With meat - top your choice of meat with one of these for extra flavour.
Dip - chop up carrot and celery sticks to dip into either of these.
Salad dressing - add extra olive oil to make a quick salad dressing to go with salads, over roasted vegetables, with a coleslaw mix or any other way you would normally use dressing.
Add to soups - bring a new flavour profile to the soups you pull out of the freezer by adding a frozen cube to melt in your soup.
Add to a stir fry - add a burst of flavour to any stir fry, at the end of your cooking time and mix it in.
Pack & Freeze
Once you have prepared your planned meals and additional components it’s time to get everything into the freezer. Whether you have prepared savoury meals, shredded meat, flavourful sauces, baked goods or sweet treats, it all needs to go into the freezer to inhibit histamine formation.
Sauces freeze well in ice cube trays for small portions. Once frozen, pop them in to a silicone bag or container for easy retrieval when you want to add some flavour to meals.
Glass, stainless steel, and silicone containers are all good choices. If you have MCAS and are highly sensitive, stick to glass as it is the safest choice. Avoid all types of plastics.
Need Help To Plan?
If you don’t have the time or the energy to plan out what you want to batch cook, you can find a full month of meal plans in our book Histamine Haven.
Each week of our meal plan contains a varied combination of a soup, a shredded meat, a savoury sauce, a delectable baked good, plus simple meal ideas. We also feature a pizza night along with many other meals that will become favourites.
Whether you choose to follow the full meal plan or to use it for inspiration, it’s a great place to start.
Included in the cookbook is a chart for cooking different meats and the different cuts from frozen in a pressure cooker. Look for those on page 144.
Strategy for Success
Starting and sustaining a new way of eating can be challenging. No longer can you grab a quick take away meal or store-bought packaged foods.
Batch cooking is the best strategy for keeping you on track so that you can feel your best.
Having meals or meal components in your freezer means you will always have great tasting low histamine, low lectin foods available to grab.
Prioritize time each week to batch cook. Decide what days of the week will work best for you and mark those times in your calendar so that batch cooking becomes part of your regular routine. Enlist your family to help, or call in a friend so you can both have some meals prepped!
Once you get in the habit of batch cooking you will find it’s an invaluable strategy that you won’t want to live without.
And you'll find yourself thanking your younger self over and over for having done this prep work before hand.
Our meal plans start on page 66 of our book. You'll find four weeks of meal plans with batch prep sessions inserted in to the week's schedule. Got the book already, and want to get printable versions of those meal plans, including the shopping lists to go with it? Head to this page.
We also include one week of meal planning on page 73 to help those who are super sensitive, and need some help to really bring down what is driving potential symptoms.
Don't want to use a meal plan? We also offer tips on page 72 on how to simply pull a meal together in order to make it an easy and attainable thing. Let's reduce your overwhelm!